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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  June 19, 2011 9:30am-10:45am EDT

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justice thurgood marshall to sing was professor of law, professor of history at the university of virginia. or faster brown bag holds a ph.d in history from duke university and a law degree from yale university where she was an editor of the yale law journal. she received her ba summa cum laude from berman university. before joining the faculty, or faster brown bag and practice law in new york city and serve as a law clerk to the honorable jane ross of the states court of appeals for the third circuit them and to the honorable robert l. carter at the united states district court for the southern district of new york. at uva professor brown-nagin teaches constitutional law, constitutional and social history, and education law. she is considered one of the nations leading young legal historians and has written widely in areas of legal history, education law, and the
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supreme court people protection jurisprudence. her scholarship has appeared in some of the foremost law journals within the legal academy. in february of this year oxford university press published professor brown-nagin's first book, "courage to dissent: atlanta and the long history of the civil rights movement" your asocial legal history about lawyers, courts and community based activism during the civil rights era. this highly anticipated work has already garnered widespread acclaim. most notably for members of our community, the book features some of the lawyers who are integral players in the legal odyssey that ultimately led to the desegregation of the university of georgia. this will be the subject of her talk today. if you have questions at the end of her talk, please use a microphone stand at the front to ask the question. and at this time please join me in welcoming professor tomiko brown-nagin. [applause]
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>> good afternoon. thank you so much for that kind introduction. and to all of you for coming out, it's an honor and privilege to be here at the university of georgia, particularly in this 50th anniversary year of the schools desegregation. i want to begin by of course thanking the american constitution society for inviting me to appear here. particularly to ashland johnson who organized this event. she works so hard on bringing this together. and i appreciate that so much. i also want to recognize the cosponsors of the event, including the george history department, the african-american cultural center institute of african-american studies, and
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graduate and professional scholars. thank you all. i'm thrilled to be here with you, and i appreciate your support. now, i want to begin my talk with a question. and my question is how many of you are familiar with the work of thurgood marshall? by a show of hands, how many of you know who thurgood marshall is? okay, so i see most fans just as i would have anticipated. many, many people know who thurgood marshall is. he was my childhood hero, and a hero to many americans because of the singular role he played in the legal history of the civil rights movement. of course, he famously litigated the case that desegregation of schools formally, brown v. board of education. and, of course, went on to become the nation's first african-american supreme court justice. because of his role in the legal
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history of the movement, civil rights movement, many, many books that are written about the legal history of the movement revolve around thurgood marshall and his conception of equality. well, my book is different. it begins with the question of what would the legal history of the civil rights movement look like if the work of thurgood marshall and the work of the supreme court justices were not so central to the story? what would we see? who would receive? and my book answers that question with this observation. if we move those familiar persons and institutions away from the center of analysis, we can see unsung lawyers and
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activists at the local level. people who contributed a lot to the social and legal world that we live in today, people who sometimes disagree with thurgood marshall and his inception of equality. people who we ought to remember, just as we remember marshall. and i say that because i think and remember these people we add depth to the history of the civil rights movement. now, my work, my book, "courage to dissent" recalls the history of the movement and atlanta, and, of course, you all know that atlanta is a leading american city today. but it was also really important during the civil rights movement because it was the home to leading civil rights organizations, including the southern christian leadership council and snake.
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the student organization, the student nonviolent coordinating committee. so what i'd like to do is focus in particular on sncc, and other ways of lawyers and activists who contributed, nor unsung and who contributed to the history of the movement. i take a bottom-up perspective on constitutional law. and what i'd like to do this afternoon is discussed three ways of unsung lawyers and activists do i argue in my book contributed to the civil rights movement in important ways. the first point i want to emphasize is that all of these dissenters, and i style all of these people to centers, have same overarching goal of equality. but they have different
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priorities and tactics for achieving equality. in fact, they define equality in different ways. the first wave of dissenters were pragmatists. i called them pragmatists because they wanted to challenge jim crow, but without destroying the social and economic capital that the black middle class had built during segregation. so who were these pragmatists? well, they were some of the black college presidents in atlanta, many african-american teachers who were the lions share of the black middle class, and they also included a t. walden who is one of the south's first african-american lawyers. and here he is, a portrait of mr. walden. now, walden was the sun, of former slaves and sharecroppers. he studied at atlanta university
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with debbie big boys. he went on to graduate with honors from the university of michigan law school. he excelled at michigan while waiting tables for a local fraternity. he is little known today, but walden really inspired a generation of african-american lawyers, including vernon jordan, a lawyer, counsel to presidents who i'm sure some of you have heard of. jordan called walden so impressive. he said quote i wanted to be a lawyer just like walden. i wanted to walk like him and talk like him and hang out my shingle on auburn street just like walden. above all else, pragmatists like walden and a black college presidents prioritize voting rights as a path to black power.
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and he received walden challenging the so-called white primary, the laws, the traditions of excluding african-americans from the votes in georgia and elsewhere. and here is a result of his activism. in 1946 after the fall of the white primary, blacks lined up all over the streets in atlanta, eager to exercise the franchise. and get walden and other pragmatists were called accommodations, although come. and so the question is why would that be? well, it was because he didn't challenge segregation in housing. instead he made deals with local whites to find housing for african-americans were ever he could. in the next update postwar housing crisis. and this had the effect of maintaining the color line. and as a result, poor black
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neighborhoods remained intact, neighborhoods like the one where this one, remained intact and really his decisions have the impact of exacerbating segregation over time. he also was called an accommodation is because he never fully embraced school desegregation. of course, a chief way in which thurgood marshall conceived equality. now, why would that have been? it was partly because he was interested in preserving the jobs of african-americans school teachers. but also it was because he was worried that in desegregation schools african-american students would not have a nurturing school environment. so because of his skepticism of school desegregation he didn't file a case to desegregate the
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schools in atlanta until 1958, although he promised thurgood marshall that he would file a case right after brown was decided in 1954. he also was slow in finding, or caring for the prosecuting the ug a case. waldin was replaced as lead counsel on the initial case to desegregate the university of georgia which was filed in 1952. he was replaced because the lawyers in new york thought he was too beholden to the white power structure, to litigate the case aggressively. it fell to speaker motley and donald hollowell to litigate that case to fruition in 1961 which was 11 years after walden initially started that fight. and here you see horace ward,
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the initial plaintiff in the uga? and donald hollowell on the right who litigated that case after walden was replaced as lead counsel. moreover, waldin and other pragmatists oppose the direction action tactics of the second wave of dissenters in my book. now, the second wave of dissenters consisted of street demonstrators and movement lawyers, and here is a typical scene involving these demonstrators. they are squared off here in 1964 against the clan. these activists sought to achieve social and economic empowerment for black communities by segregating a look accommodations, by walking picket lines with unions, by engaging in strikes and generally trying to reach the
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african-american community where it was. 13 lawyers, became allies of the student movement during the 1960s, and my book spans many, many chapters detailing the synergies between these lawyers and the student movement over the course of the 1960s. what i first want to do is give you a little background on the student movement itself. which initially burst onto the national scene in 1960 and the city and in greensboro. where blacks, costumes request for service really launched a revolution in southern race relations. sit in movement quickly spread, including to atlanta in march of 1960. and there we see some students who were engaged in one of these demonstrations.
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the students in atlanta like all over this country engaged in a years long effort to desegregate public accommodations. for my purposes this afternoon, i want to emphasize two points about the student movement. they are, first, the students turned to direct action partly out of frustration with the civil rights lawyers, and with civil rights litigation, the pace of civil rights litigation. it was too slow for them. but even as they pursued their new tactics, they didn't turn entirely away from the law. and i want to read you a quote from john lewis, that illuminates the nature of the students critique of a lawyer dominate movement. lewis said quote, we were all about a mass movement, an irresistible movement of the masses. not handful of lawyers in a
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closed courtroom, but hundreds, thousands of everyday people taking their cause and belief to the streets. not so interested in lawyers. now, it's important to appreciate the context of lewis' statement. he made it at a time when mainstream civil rights lawyers, including thurgood marshall, were very negative on the sit ins. very negative on direct action. so the beginning of the students movement, thurgood marshall said to the students that the way to change america was through the court, not in the streets. he told the students that they're going to get someone killed, if they continued with their tactics. he told them that they were invading the property of whites, and in atlanta, a. t. walden agreed with that assessment.
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so this is a context in which the students pushed back and said no, anyone -- we are going to do our own thing. now, as it turned out, there was a problem. the students preferred tactic often landed them in jail. and so they realize that they desperately needed representation. they needed lawyers, because if nothing else, we know that lawyers can get you released from jail, right? so in the middle of their movement, in their excitement about their political tactics the students realize something that we all know, or are at least we know our hope is true, and that is that lawyers, you can't live with them but you also can't live without them. so these students turned back to
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lawyers. they sought new allies in the bar and the realize that they could find allies who are interested in their tactics. and those lawyers are lynn holt and howard moore junior, who answered the call. and then i want to tell you a bit about those lawyers. their approaches to litigation really illuminates i think the value of looking at the legal history of the movement from the bottom up. the first lawyer that i will talk about is lynn holt. who collaborated with scores of community based organizations in the south, including sncc and his atlanta affiliate, the committee on appeal for human rights. now, lynn holt was charismatic. he was called the sncc doctor. because of his style. he was a rabble-rouser. he was an activist lawyer and he was proud of it and i think it
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comes through in this photograph with the hats and the very long cigar. he called it a clint eastwood kind of cigar. quite provocative of them. hold identified as a movement lawyer, by which he meant he wanted to capitalize social movement. he said the movement should leave and lawyers should follow. his goal was to fortify participatory democracy. he wanted to use the courtroom as political theater. the interesting thing is that biography is a key to understanding why lynn holt chose this approach to lawyering. lynn holt had attended law school at howard university during the 1950s, which was a golden age for the institution. this was when thurgood marshall
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and other lbf lawyers mooted their arguments, the arguments that they would make before the supreme court at howard law school. imagine how exciting this was, to have thurgood marshall and all of these lawyers in the mix, especially for someone like lynn holt who wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. he was right there in the mix. heat in an important way, it turned out that he had the privilege of fetching coffee and sandwiches for thurgood marshall, and doing a little bit of legal research for those lawyers as well. and imagine being so close to someone whom you admired so much. he was intent on going to work for lbf after he graduated from howard, that he did not do that. and why was that? well, he became a very troubled
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by lbs school desegregation strategy, how it played out in prince edward county virginia. the school board their close it school for five years rather than comply with a school desegregation decree. and for all of that time, local children did not go to school. lynn holt was a virginia lawyer had an office in norfolk, witnessed the impacts of the school closing as he traveled back and forth throughout the state, go through prince edward county, and he saw black boys and girls eight and nine years old he said standing around doing nothing. these were the children of black agriculture workers, sharecroppers who themselves had not been well educated. and lynn holt told me that he thought this was another lost
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generation, and he concluded that the school desegregation litigation and post extravagant costs on black communities and the naacp officials hadn't properly cared for their clients. and he also questioned the narrow focus on school desegregation anyway, given the material deprivation of these communities. so it's within this context that he develops this commitment to movement lawyering. he said that he was a lawyer in a different way. he would put the objectives, the goals of the people first. he explained, lawyers were no longer the central agents fighting to achieve the goals of freedom and equality through the own special arena. the courts of law. their primary task was to find ways of helping the black people themselves, enforce the constitutional promises of
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freedom and equality. now, my book recounts how lynn holt pioneered the use of a tactic called omnibus civil rights suits to facilitate the movement goal of the desegregating public accommodations, consistent with this concept of the movement lawyering. the i'm the best civil rights action was unique in that it challenged segregation in many, many venues all at once, rather than on a piecemeal basis. and let me describe what i mean. a complaint, omnibus complaint filed in danville virginia, it attacked segregation in the danville memorial hospital, the danville technical institute,
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the city armory, a city housing project, and many other state-controlled entities. the idea here is that with this omnibus litigation, holt advance the students goal of freedom now. they were uninterested in waiting and challenging jim crow bit by bit. that was inefficient from the standpoint. so by filing the suits, the students would be able to have a lawsuit that would hopefully tear down jim crow much quickly, at the same time they would continue their protests in the streets and out of segregation in two different forum. now, the student movement in atlanta filed one of these omnibus suit pro se in 1961, and the complaints captioned reflected the flare of the pro se lawyers, lawyers who file on
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their own, or without a lawyer. here's a caption. a suited to exhume much of the kansas racial segregation that is fetching within atlanta, the students said. now, thurgood marshall probably would have left out the cancers apart, right? and they described the cities policies themselves in equally provocative terms. they call them quote, insulting, degrading, unnecessary, medieval, foolish and septic. and again, you can imagine that thurgood marshall and other lbf lawyers would just have called it unconstitutional. the thing is that the students with their provocative style won their case in 1962, the federal district court in atlanta struck down all ordinances requiring segregation in parks, theaters, public calls, and other places
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of public assembly, finding an unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. the students had filed this lawsuit amid continuing protests, linking the political tactics and legal tactics just as lynn holt had imagined. and as you can imagine, the students were very happy with lynn holt and the way in which he contributed to their idea of what the movement should be. because of his support, of the movement, he was beloved. mary keenan, compared him to quote an abolitionist on the underground railroad. james foreman called him quote, far ahead of the conservative legal profession. and stokely carmichael called him one of the great unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. certainly, lynn holt ought to be
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remembered. now, let's talk about howard moore, jr. who was there on the left. howard moore, jr. was snakes general counsel. he was a native son of atlanta. he had been inspired to attend law school when thurgood marshall came to atlanta and wowed the crowd at a speech. moore said to himself i can talk like that. and so he could. he was very eloquent. but howard moore just like a. t. walden before him, and other ambitious african-americans had to go out of state to law school. that was because at the time he was excluded from the university of georgia because of his race. he went up north to boston university, and when he graduated he came back to georgia. he really wanted to be a member of the georgia bar and to practice in his home state and
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city. he joined the bar in 1962, and when he did he was only the 10th full-time black lawyer practicing. not in atlanta, but in the entire state of georgia, which might strike you as pretty incredible. those numbers by the way didn't improve very much until the 1970s. once he joined the bar he went to work for donald hollowell who is there on the right. he's another legendary lawyer who is very important to the student movement. hollowell was more his mentor, although when they first met each other it was an odd encounter. hollowell told moore that he was a lawyer, and moore said when hollowell said this, that's
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bull. he said something a little more colorful, but fortunately he said to himself and god himself a mentor. the point is that black lawyers were very, very rare. it was inconceivable that a black man could be a lawyer at that time. nevertheless, moore went on to make a tremendous impact in the law as sncc's general counsel he represented three social movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-poverty movement and in the peace movement. he found actions that stand substantive areas of law so he litigated housing cases for impoverished clients. they were subjected to summary evictions. he got to know these clients because sncc, the students in the atlanta movement worked with, and atlantis get those trying to help people who were poor, find a way out of those
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conditions. the students help people obtain social services, balanced budgets, all sorts of matters. and moore handled related legal cases. he also worked on behalf of conscientious objectors who were anxious to avoid service in the vietnam war. he represented school desegregation plaintiffs, at least until he became quite a critic of school desegregation. he handled criminal proceedings including capital cases. e-file first amendment actions on behalf of all manner of demonstrators. his roster of clients include stokely carmichael, angela davis, julian bond, some of the most prominent activist of the 1960s. moore has and and passive learning style which endeared him to his client. he exuded warmth. he was called the land. one sncc volunteer called him quote a big lovable teddy bear. she said, moore held altogether
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for activist under pressure. if howard moore had worked with me, try to get myself together, i don't know what i would've done. this is a typical testimonial about how important moore was to the movement. he told me that he viewed the practice of law as a crusade for justice, and he was quite brave which made him a good fit for his roster of clients, including julian bond. ..
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opposing the, quote, hypocritical vietnam war, waged they said even though the u.s. government had not lived up to its commitment to democracy in the u.s. and it's for this that bond had been called unqualified for public office. some had said he had committed treason with these words. he was asked to repudiate this statement and it's important to know that these requests came not only from whites but by the entire black establishment in atlanta. howard moore recalled that the leadership in the black community was, quote, 100% against julian bond. now, as i say that, bear in mind
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that as these actions were taking place, most were supporting the war. dr. king would be support opposition to the war until 1967 and so sncc was on the leading edge of antiwar sentiment. bond was under intense pressure but he stood pat he said i hope throughout my life i shall always have the courage to dissent and his supporters in sncc backed him up saying what could be more patriotic than the expression of dissent in america, a country born of revolution. this photograph is a picture of
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bond in the chambers where his colleagues are refusing to seat him. so sncc argued that the right to express dissent was a keystone of democracy, members of sncc mobilized and supported him. and he actually required to stand for re-election while he had been unseated. and his constituents backed him up, they supported him. he was re-elected. they remained loyal to him. in the meantime, howard moore filed a lawsuit challenging this expulsion and ultimately he won more in a team of lawyers prevailed in the bond case. his activism there yield an important supreme court decision upholding the first amendment rights of elected officials. which is one reason among many that surely howard moore, jr.,
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deserves to be remembered. and now let's consider the third wave of dissenters who in my book are personified by welfare rights activists and those who represented homework now, this third wave of dissent eers real bring the book full circle as the first wave brought on the pragmatists the third wave challenged the entire society. and in my book ethel may matthews who's shown on the cover and in the slide personifies this wave of dissenters. ethel may matthews was the daughter of alabama sharecroppers. she arrived penniless in the 1950s. she worked as a housekeeper and
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she lived in public sxhoufg she later found her public voice in the welfare rights movement during the 1960s. matthews and others like her as she rose to -- they rose to challenge the second wave and others in the civil rights movement made it clear that the formal equality of the civil rights of 1964 and the voting rights of 1965 were not enough. they were not enough matthews and others said because jim crow left irregularized poverty and ms. matthews and other women, mostly women in the welfare rights movement waged protests for affordable housing, an inadequate income and they also
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were vocal critics of many politicians including the new black political class elected in the wake of the voting right act of 1965. saying again the right to vote alone was not enough if the representatives were not responsive. matthews and others wanted accountability. and listen to her voice, she said, quote, many of those who profess want change don't care nothing about poor people. if they have poor people at heart, they could make it better. they forget about you. they forget about who they are and where they come from. and there she's talking about the people who are elected by people like her. one of her priorities was school desegregation. she filed a lawsuit to challenge
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the atlanta public schools. she wanted school desegregation. and she met resistance. not only from whites but from blacks. now, recall that the pragmatists like e.t. walls wanted segregation to protect the black middle class but also out of concern for students. well, it turned out that during the 1970s, the local naacp in atlanta opposed school desegregation and for much the same reasons. they decided to settle the school desegregation case that was ongoing in atlanta in order to preserve the jobs of african-american school teachers and principals. there was concerns about school
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discrimination and they were concerned blacks would not have a good environment in desegregated majority-white schools now, even as matthews challenged this perspective, prominent blacks in atlanta's community supported desegregation dr. main and maynard jackson who would become mayor of atlanta, andrew young supported the settlements, lots of african-american -- prominent african-american leaders. but this does not stop matthews and other women in atlanta's housing projects from pushing ahead. they challenged the settlement. and they met the resistance of, say, lonnie king who was the head of a local naacp. he defended it with these words, among others.
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he said, if i have to choose between sitting beside whitey and a job that pays, i want the job. matthews shot back, quote, why should our children be pawned for a few greenbacks? and thus you can see that matthews and her neighbors were concerned about their children. she knew, they knew, that they would never be wealthy. but they did want the opportunity for their children to climb out of poverty and they thought that the way for them to do that was to get a good education. and they associated racially mixed schools with that opportunity. they pushed ahead. they hired margerie pitts haines who was a lawyer associated with the aclu to back them up in
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court. challenging the settlement. matthews confronted and other women confronted powerful lawyers in the courtroom and again, i want to share matthews voice with you because i think it's quite powerful. she said in the courtroom, i represent poor people. and i think their children need equal education as well as the rich person's children. she continued, so i would ask the court to let us poor people be in on the decision as black and poor people. because we are the ones that live -- we are the ones that our children go to the ghetto schools. and she also said and you don't know how it makes a mother feel when her children go all the way through 12 grades and come out can't even spell her name. now, margerie haines didn't win
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her case but even as i say that, i'll emphasize that "courage disse dissent" does not only show the winners but the lower. the loose of ethel may matthews and her neighbors it seems to me is critically important to -- adding to the legal history especially of the rights movement again because they insisted that we remember that jim grow and poverty were interwoven and left a legacy. now, i'll concluded by drawing out the larger lessons that i think one can learn from the bottom-up view of the
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constitutional rights amendment. i want to offer three possibilities. the first is this, it seems to me decentering the supreme court doctrine and even legendary lawyers like thurgood marshall from the legal history of the civil rights movement opens up a much broader, deeper and synthetic interpretation of civil rights history. one can really see how dynamic the movement was. it was so much more than a few marquee legal cases such as brown versus board of education. the lawyers whom i've spoken about, margie haines-pitts, lynn holt, howard moore -- these are figures whom it is important testimonial. they were creative. they offer models of social change that are different in
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important respects from the model that thurgood marshall embraced and i say that in part because there is a literature, political science literature, that argues that civil rights lawyers were actually ill-served by reliance on the courts and by affirmative constitutional litigation and that is because it turned out that the supreme court could not and could not enforce its own decrees. meanwhile, movement was so focused on the law that it tended not to mobilize politically. well, what i argue in my work is that these lawyers did not fit that description. they were very savvy. they were able to use the courts and constitutional concepts to
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their own advantage even when they were skeptical of those same concepts. a second lesson here is that i'm telling a different story about accommodationists. so a man like a.t. walden who is dismissed as an uncle tom by ldf on the one hand and by the students on the other because he didn't tow either line looks more complicated when we consider him in his own time on the ground from his own perspective. within that context, his choices look more reasonable. what he was trying to do and what the pragmatists were trying to do is reconcile the theories, the philosophies of dubois and booker t. wilson while battling white supremacists. moreover, i think it's very
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notable that the criticism of school desegregation and particular that walden offered came to be shared by lots and lots of people in the civil rights movement. now, all of whom brought something more complicated than integration. then, of course, people came to understand that one needed nurturing teachers, a good curriculum and representation on school boards, for instance, so you could say he was prescient. above all else, i would argue, a bottom-up view on constitutional history, not these unsung warriors, organizerses, women, men in interaction with national institutions helped to shape and give meaning to the constitution. they were people on the ground and yet they were law-shapers. they were law interpreters even
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lawmakers. if you begin to consider their role in the passage of the landmark civil rights legislation. now, i talked about a few people who were public figures and you're already familiar with them so john lewis and julian bond but there are a lot of people in this book whom i talk about who were less familiar or totally unfamiliar, bill ware, margaret simmons, eva davis, emma armor and others, these people are all history makers. and i hope that one day when a group is assembled and their names are called out, people will be able to raise their hands and remembrance of them. saying, that yes, i remember ethel may matthews and howard moore, lynn holt, a.t. walden -- all of these people who helped to create a more vibrant democracy, a more perfect union. all of them ought to be
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remembered along with justice marshall and i hope that you will. thank you. and i look forward to your questions. [applause] >> and if you'll please come forward, if you have questions. >> what -- is this on? >> i believe so. >> i don't know if you need -- if i need it. what explains atlanta advancing in civil rights it seems at a better pace than let's say memphis and birmingham? i've heard this mentioned by others that if you compare atlanta, birmingham and memphis, let's say, 1955, they're all
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about the same and size and let's say stature but atlanta becomes the -- what, the leading city of the southeast? is it because atlanta integration better than others? is it a better -- a larger, more dynamic black middle class? i think this in a way ties into what you're talking about. the movement in atlanta, you know, sort of singling it out but, you know, it did have a remarkable role nationally that seemed to have a bigger impact than, let's say those other two southeastern cities? >> uh-huh. well, that's a great question. and i will answer you by noting that when i first started this project, i chose atlanta because i thought that it would yield a success story. and that was for two reasons, one, because i understood that
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the white city fathers viewed themselves as racial moderates and, two, because of the black middle class, and the combination of those two factors one would see a pretty rapid and pretty smooth transition from jim crow to a regime of civil rights. and i think the premise that you articulate there and this idea of success in atlanta certainly is a story that can be told. and yet what i would emphasize what atlanta was able to do better than many cities was p.r. so the mayor was very keen and the business leaders in atlanta were very keen on minimizing the violence and transitioning when there were crises in such a way
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that atlanta preserved its image as a moderate city in contrast to a birmingham or in contrast to little rock, for instance. so it's the case that the schools in atlanta, once the school desegregation case was actually filed in 1968, that these schools were desegregated by august of 1961. so as these things happen, that's -- that's a pretty short -- a relatively short transition period and what i would emphasize that desegregation occurred on a token basis. there are only 9 african-american students and when one starts to think in terms of meaningful desegregation in atlanta, i don't think the record looks
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that different from any other city. and one could take about lots of areas and make the same observation. yes, atlanta has a great reputation and it was able to transition and i would emphasize obviously atlanta can boost still today having a successful african-american middle class and that's really important, but at the same time, we should remember that there were people who were left behind and that's an important story to tell. >> referring to ms. matthews' account trading in her education for somebody else earned a dollar. what do you think her fears have
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been bourne out in subsequent civil rights litigation or have her fears been answered in a positive way in subsequent civil rights litigation? >> uh-huh. that's an interesting question. well, i can say this. in atlanta, the perspective of the african-american middle class won out. thus, the settlement was put into place. atlanta was able to have an african-american black school superintendent. the school board initially was 50% african-american and soon it was a majority african-american. the same was true of the city
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council over time. mayor jackson became mayor and over time atlanta, like many other cities, became a black-controlled city. and the theory that the african-american middle class had was that same race representation controlled by african-americans would yield progress for the entire group. and what ms. matthews was challenging -- she was challenging that premise as early as the 19 -- late 1960s and the 1970s, certainly. and i can tell you that certainly it was the case that pretty soon in the evolution of the atlanta school board it became clear of the city
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schools, that having same race representation was not enough to make the city schools good schools for the majority of children and certainly for children who had the most needs. and, of course, those are typically going to be the children of the -- what william julius williams calls the truly disadvantaged, right? so the african-americans who are living in poverty. so i do think that her fears that these majority black school systems would not necessarily yield the progress that the black middle class promised were bourne out. and the story of atlanta, the idea of community control of schools -- it's not just an atlanta story. so it's the story that an approach to education reform that was attempted all over the
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nation and in part -- when i say "attempted," i should say that it was attempted. it was embraced but also it became the approach out of necessity because atlanta, like so many cities, had to deal with white flight, with a contracting economy so it was a very complex circumstance. a part of why the african-american -- african-americans who took over these cities were not able to achieve all that they hoped was because they didn't have very much to work with by the time that they actually gained power. i think that ms. matthews fears were bourne out in politics, in the political arena. >> so i really liked your bottom-up approach to history.
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i think that's really valuable because it lends texture and really an understanding of what actually happens. and it -- it makes things seem more contingent and more contested than they were, than the sort of dominant narrative have. so where does the dominant narrative come from? are the lawyers and thurgood marshall, they just more prominent and is that what makes that the dominant narrative. what explains that? hmmm? well, a number of things, i would say. i mentioned that my book is not just winners' history. so the dominant narrative is consistent with winners' history.
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so, of course, we want to tell the history of the naacp lawyers, of thurgood marshall and his conception of equality because we're proud in this country of brown versus board of education and its role in cleansing constitutional law of jim crow. and it's role in contributing to all of the changes, subsequent changes in the law. so to the extent that we value the work marshall, and the history is being written by those within law schools, one would expect that that particular narrative would be dominant. a corollary of that is that, you know, in the constitutional law,
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as many of you will know, we don't talk so much about ine=iti inequalities of economics, there's not a lot one can do with that, right. if you're thinking in terms of the mainstream and thus it's hard to fit in that bottom-up approach into that dominant narrative because the bottom-up approach is more complicated. it's hard to tell a narrative that is about success and a narrative of progress when you have ethel may matthew' voice in that narrative. it's important who writes
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history. that's a tremendous part of it, too. other questions? >> i probably didn't have to come to the mic for this, but you mentioned that had the dissenters -- well, you talked about what the dissenters would have preferred the movement to look like opposed to the mainstream leaders, i wanted to get your personal opinion on whether or not you think the movement would have been better served had the dissenters had their way, i guess, in a very large or robust fashion? >> so that's a complicated question in part because -- a part of what i'm arguing is that the dissenters disagree with one another so i can only answer the
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question by referring to particular dissenters at particular historical moments. and so i'll start with the pragmatists. i do think that the critique of school desegregation that was offered was valuable. thus, when i think and i teach education in policy, when i think about what makes for a good school or good education, i don't just think about putting students in a classroom and just, you know, letting them be. of course, it takes nurturing teachers and it takes about thinking of the curriculum and other criticisms of school desegregation across the way in
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which the process unfolded related to the destruction of culture so things like mascots and -- all sorts of things that might seem small to us but from the perspective of students who have certain traditions, i think they are large. thus, to that extent, i think those critiques were valuable. now, as to the second wave of dissenters, the movement lawyers and the activists, certainly, the emphasis on an approach to lawyering that is connected to communities resonates with me very much. now, the trick with that is
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this: it can be difficult to engage in impact lawyering and remain connected to community. impact lawyering, class actions because those cases take on a momentum of their own that's driven to a large extent by the courts and not so much by the plaintiffs, which is why which is why they litigated cases that aren't so -- the scale of them doesn't compair to the scale of brown versus board of education. and yet they are important cases and thus i would suggest that if one is going to listen to that kind of dissent, one has to be committed to a variety of approaches to lawyering as well as to integrating political
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tactics. and when i say political tactics i don't only mean lobbying, i mean, protest tactics is what -- you know, the students were interested in into one's legal program. and as to matthews and her approach to dissent, yes, i think that it's important to think about the ways in which the legacy of jim crow includes poverty and, of course, we do talk about those issues, right? we don't historyize those gap. we talk about mass incarceration. we talk about all sorts of issues that relate to their legacy and they are not
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historized that we speak in a way that's sensitive, sympathetic and empathetic to the ethel may matthews of the world. and one of the things that i think is important, by the way, is that ms. matthews and others like her -- i've only spoken about her, but i do think she refutes in a powerful way this sense that the poor don't really care about their kids or the education of their kids. she and these women who were -- who litigated the school litigation case, who were involved in the school desegregation case were motivated entirely by a concern about the welfare of their kids and yet a lot of the rhetoric that one hears around education policy and i -- again, i do work
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in this area is very far removed from removed from that realty. other questions? i really love this part. >> i think you've touched upon this to some extent, but one trend that's occurred in the metro atlanta area and a lot of places throughout the country has been the -- has been the resegregation of a lot of public schools, largely among socioeconomic lines nowadays. do you think that we should be working -- in light of the historical perspectives you mentioned, shall we be working towards reversing that trend of resegregation or is it even worth addressing? i just wanted some of your thoughts on that? >> sure. there is a great deal of literature that demonstrates
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that concentrations of poverty undermine educational achievement. the literature strikes me as very persuasive. and thus, for that reason, i think it is important to try to break up those concentrations of poverty. now, having said that -- and i will also add that i think it's important -- i value racial diversity. i think it's important for a number of reasons. thus, i would endorse as a general matter both race-based integration and sec-based integration in schools. now, having said that, i do think we've learned that there are better and worse ways to try
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to engage in those kinds of reforms. and it strikes me that one of the lessons of this history that, you know, there are many different communities, and those communities should have the ability to choose their approaches to education. thus, for, you know, some students an integrated education might be valuable and they might not mind some of the social inconvenience discomfort that can see along with that if they're intergrating into an overwhelmingly, say, white environment. for other students, that's going to be really harmful. and harmful to their education. and thus, i think, and this is
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my bottom line, i would hope that increasingly, we could consider some kind of approach to breaking up those concentrations of poverty and integrating schools that focuses on choice. now, what that looks like -- i mean, choice within public school systems, which is different from, you know, vouchers or other kind of programs, although i'm not saying i'm closed to that. but what that looks like in practice, i'm not exactly sure. other questions? [inaudible]
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>> maybe it would have been, i guess, real change -- [inaudible] >> right. that's a good question. one thing i will say is that there have been cases in the state courts where change has been made along the lines that you suggest. so federal constitutional law is not the only constitutional law. states made constitutional laws as well. and, you know, i can only answer your question by saying that it depends again on how programs are implemented and designed.
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it really does, which may not be a satisfactory answer but i do think that's the answer. other questions? very good. well, thank you so much for coming. this has been a thrill for me. thank you. [applause] >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> what are you reading this summer? booktv wants to know. >> well, reading a book about the coldest winter and, quite frankly, i had this book and not wanting to open up the pages to it. it goes over the korean war and
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for most people who are familiar with the korean war said you don't want to know. what do they mean by that. well, i was in korea when the chinese actually surrounded the entire eighth army and it was a nightmare. unfortunately, it was over 60 years ago and to the best of my knowledge i have been suffered psychologically about that war. it pains me when i think the number of americans that died in korea and it's even more painful when people ask me to explain my heroic actions in a country why i was there. and i thought it was better not
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to expose myself to any more with this nightmare and i left it alone. i have six different copies of this one book by david halberstam. some in korea. some have their loved ones in korea but all of them say that their worst thoughts about what happened was actually proven by this book. why we got involved. did we know what we were doing? was it successful? so i feel secure enough at 80 years old to take a look into what happened over 60 years old and to see where this actually takes me. i know one thing, that in june
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of 1950, i was 20 years old, i was in the second infantry division and i was told that we were going to stop the communist invasion of south korea. i don't know whether i've said this publicly but i had no clue where the hell korea was or what the invasion they were talking about. and even when i came back home, one of the most tragic things was, one, i never was missed. and, two, i couldn't properly explain where i was. now i can see out of the ashes of a broken down community that had been crushed to the ground that out of all of this it's coming one of the greatest democracies and economic powers in that region and a long time
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friend of the united states. those are good thoughts that's where i was and i was in korea in 1950 and i helped to preserve the democracy. but, quite frankly, i may not want to know why i was there. and i'm going to do this in the summer so that it has any adverse effects that i won't be on the floor of the house of representatives. >> tell us what you're reading this summer. send us is tweet at booktv. >> next on booktv, eric larson recounts the tenure of the first american ambassador william dodd and he became aware of jewish persecution. this is about 50 minutes.
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